Should American taxpayer funds and public lands be used to honor enemy combatants? When considering this question, the following is an instructive thought experiment:
Japanese-Americans in the Second World War were loyal to the United States and those who were called to serve did so honorably in the service of our nation.
Imagine if those Japanese-Americans descendants decided the Empire of the Sun was a part of their heritage. Imagine these descendants wished to honor their heritage and decided that while the Empire of Japan inflicted 426,000 casualties on the United States, American tax dollars and public lands be used to erect statues of Emperor Hirohito and Supreme Military Leader Hideki Tojo in Pearl Harbor.
Imagine Muslim-Americans decided that Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American citizen turned enemy combatant, was a critical part of Muslim heritage and thus ought to be honored in the same manner.
By any reasonable standard, using American taxpayer funds to build monuments and provide public lands for enemy combatants, be they foreign or American citizens, is perverse.
When the Confederate States of America seceded from the United States, their leaders, both civilian and military, along with their soldiers, became enemy combatants. Southerners may decide the Confederacy is an indelible part of their heritage and believe it should be honored, and they are free to do so under the First Amendment, just as Japanese-Americans are free to celebrate the attack on Pearl Harbor and Muslim-Americans are free to honor anti-American terrorists. However, it should only be on their own time, property, and dime.
Southerners may wish to erect monuments to Confederate leaders using taxpayer funds and on public land, but public resources should not to be used to honor Confederate enemy combatants any more than public resources should be used to honor Japanese fighting American forces or American citizens turned jihadi.
Public symbols must either be representative of the whole people, or at least representative of a people whose historical memory is not in conflict with another critical mass of people within its body. The Confederate States of America’s historical memory will forever be in conflict with the United States of America by its very definition. The Confederacy inflicted 828,000 casualties on Union forces, a loss far higher than either the Empire of Japan or the present day jihadi menace.
When confronted with his position, the response is almost always illogical. A common refrain is General Lee’s honor, military prowess, politeness and skill in killing American soldiers warrants a monument remains an enduring puzzle—an argument which cannot refute these points and automatically forfeits itself to this line of reasoning.
Now I ask you; should taxpayer funds be used to honor enemy combatants?